Astro Boy: Movie Review
Voice Cast: Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage, Bill Nighy,
Donald Sutherland, Nathan Lane, Kristen Bell, Eugene Levy
Director: David Bowers
From the immensely popular Japanese Manga comics comes the big screen version
of Astro Boy.
The film takes place in a future where the humans have been forced to abandon
the planet and now live in Metro City, which floats high in the skies.
It's the tale of Toby (voiced by Freddie Highmore) a genius boy who suffers
from an absentee scientist father Dr Tenma (Nicolas Cage in typical laconic
mood). Tenma's involved in helping the military might of President Stone (Donald
Sutherland) - however, one day his nosey son breaks into the lab and watches the
unveiling of the Peacekeeper robot.
Unfortunately Toby's trapped when the robot goes beserk, and is vaporized.
His grieving father then sets about building a robot replacement but soon
realizes it's no substitute for his son and abandons him. Once the military find
about robot Toby, they try to kill him off to retrieve his power source;
ultimately Toby ends up on the surface of the discarded earth.
So left behind on a planet strewn with robot junk, Toby tries to find his
place- and ends up embroiled in the fight to save the day when Stone's military
re-election plans spiral out of control.
For an origin film, Astro Boy is a strange mixed bag - there's a mournful
sadness running throughout as the absentee father tries to assuage his guilt
after his son dies; there are overtures of Frankenstein mixed with hints of
Gepetto/ Pinocchio as Tenma brings the robot Toby to life; there are some pretty
terrible intelligent puns (Descartes before the Horse being the worst); there's
Toby and the band of orphan children (a la Oliver Twist) on the surface trying
to fit into the world; and there's Matt Lucas making an appearance as the head
of a robot communist group which provides the comic relief.
But it scores well on some other fronts - the score when Astro Boy discovers
he can fly for the first time coupled with the soundtrack during the fight
scenes - just beautiful.
And then there's the animation - for a 2D film (and maybe we're spoiled a
little these days with all this Avatar style 3D trickery) there are some
beautifully eye popping moments. The final showdown scene shows a lushness of
animated colours (purples, reds, blues) which have to be appreciated on the big
screen and are just gorgeous.
Granted, Astro Boy is not the most original film - but for a younger core of
the audience it will prove to be a diverting use of their time.